There are tons and tons and tons of baby stuff out there, from carriers to carriages, from teethers to trainers. Most of it is useless, but of course most of it is also really cute. And there's obviously a market for all of it, because the stores and websites are growing exponentially. With no real or virtual barriers between my work and personal life, I am totally and continually entrenched in the world of child development and rearing. This leads to a relatively new imbalance in my interests and expertise, but all I can do is roll with it. So here is Part 1 of a three-part series on baby gear. I had to get this stuff out of swirling around in my head, and into some semblance of order.
Part I: The A-List contains my first choice stuff, the best of the best that I've found, that I use all the time, and my go-to list for baby shower gifts.
Part II: Honorable Mention includes things I do like and recommend, but don't meet all the criteria for the A-List.
Part III: Items of Interest contains things that I do not own or have not tried, but might like to in the future, like when we have another baby or when the girls are older. This post also contains websites I like to browse.
To make this most honorable and exclusive of lists, an item must meet three criteria:
1. I have it or have used it.
2. It rises above the rest in both form and function - even better if serving more than one function.
3. I would rather not ever have to go without it.
The Baby Book by Dr. Sears - This is my #1 reference book for all developmental and health questions for age 0-2. I always consult this before calling the doctor, and it often answers my questions so I don't have to. Plus it's full of interesting things I never knew to ask.
The Happiest Baby on the Block (DVD and book) - I love this DVD. I give or lend it to everyone I can who is having a baby. It's a very well-spent $20 and 30 minutes, for great techniques for calming fussy babies that work. I also have the book, which goes into more detail than the video. Click on the link and you can watch an excerpt of the DVD. (I also have "The Happiest Toddler on the Block", but it hasn't been as helpful so far.)
Miracle Blanket ("The Gift of Sleep") - This thing is AWESOME. I'm a big fan of swaddling for sleep, and this is the very best - it's like a baby straight jacket burrito. A little pricey but I got mine used on Ebay for less, because I wasn't sure if it would work. Next time I'd buy a new one without thinking twice. There is NO escaping, and babies sleep longer.
Amby Baby Motion Bed - When Hazel was little we didn't have room for a crib so we were looking for something compact and preferably portable that we could sleep her in safely, and happened upon this. She also had reflux, so I was happy to find something to help with that as well. What an awesome investment this was. Both babies have loved sleeping in it, and it doesn't take up too much room. Plus we bring it with us when travelling (by car; the travel bag isn't tough enough for air travel.)
Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West - This could also go under the reference section. Sleep training books are tricky to recommend because it seems there are so many out there, and everything works for somebody but nothing works for everybody. This worked for us. I had a couple sleep books that either didn't resonate with my parenting instincts, or provided too much or too little structure. I read an article by Kim West, loved it, and bought her book. Hazel was about 13 months old and bedtime was a nightmare every night. I stuck to The Sleep Lady's plan and Hazel was going down on her own in a few weeks. Ginger's getting an earlier start.
Boppy - This horseshoe-shaped pillow is so popular, and for good reason. I love it's multi-functionality, too. Great for feeding, great for tummy time, great for new sitters.
Food Smock - I know, everyone's sick of me praising my friend's product. But friend or no, Hazel wears her smock every day for every meal, and never gets food on her clothes. Awesome invention, beautiful fabrics. Also great as an art & painting smock.
Bebe Au Lait - I did a review of this great nursing cover before. I still recommend it (I have Windsor.)
Zutano booties - Out of all the fabulous and adorable baby clothes out there, only one makes my gotta-have-it A-List. For new babies (0-6 months), shoes and socks are a waste of time. Their ankles are so little, their feet so flexible, and they kick so much that everything comes off their feet. But their feet need warmth and protection. Enter these booties, which have a double cross-over snap design, so they stay on plus they come in a bunch of cute fabrics. They also have a fleece version for winter babies. After 4-6 months, shoes will stay on better, and there are lots to choose from (see Honorable Mention list.)
Diapers.com - There's nothing not to like here. Big boxes, low prices, all brands, free shipping. I would be willing to pay more, plus shipping, for this service which delivers huge, heavy boxes of diapers and wipes to my door so I don't have to lug them home. But it just so happens I actually pay less. The referral program is nice, too, and you can buy gift certificates for gifts - very practical and always welcome! Plus they've recently expanded their product line, to include refill liners for my diaper pail ($4 less than BabiesRUs!), detergent, formula, and other baby items. For $5 off your first order, use promo code DISCOMOM.
Bumbo - I cannot praise this product enough. I never had it with Hazel, and a friend lent it to us with Ginger. Next time I'm definitely buying my own. Even with the swing, bouncy seat, play gym, and exersaucer, I would not be able to take care of both kids without this. I can put it anywhere and Ginger can be up interacting with the rest of the family, during meals, bathtime, at the beach, and even down in the laundry room. Plus it's safe, smart and developmentally sound.
Nobbie Ball - Balls are always fun, versatile toys. I like this one especially because of the sensory element - fun to hold, doesn't roll to far or fast - and because you can easily inflate/deflate it with a straw, it's good across ages. I deflate it to about 2/3 and Ginger can hold onto it, get a good grip, and explore. Inflate it and Hazel and I can play rolling or tossing games.
Skwish - It's just a good toy. High quality, smart design, fun across wide age rage, encourages thinking.
Travel Magna Doodle Pro - There's nothing not to like. Here's what there is to like: mess-free artwork, lightweight & compact enough for diaper bag, take anywhere, durable, and kids love it. This was Hazel's #1 toy for at least 8 months (about 16-24 months of age). We used it in the stroller, shopping, at church, in the car, and of course at home. It kept her interested, occupied, and happy for long periods of time so I could stay sane. Everyone won.
Congratulations - you've made it through my A-List! What do you think? What's on yours? I'm always interested in parents' must-have items. Remember, though, this is The A-List. Only your can't-live-withouts. Stay tuned for Parts II and III.